Carlsbad Company Tyra Biosciences Takes on Life-Saving Work

December 1, 2021

Cancer is among the leading causes of death in the United States and around the world. Carlsbad has become a hub to game changing life sciences companies striving to change the statistics and save lives. Tyra Biosciences is leading the charge. The Carlsbad-based biotechnology company is working to develop cancer drugs that precisely target tumors resistant to other therapies.

In 2018, when Tyra was founded, there were 18.1 million new cancer cases and 9.5 million cancer-related deaths worldwide, according to the National Cancer Institute. By 2040, there will be an estimated 29.5 million new cancer cases and 16.4 million cancer-related deaths each year.

Tyra Biosciences was co-founded by COO Daniel Bensen (left) and CEO Todd Harris in 2018.

“Our long-term vision for the company is to bring great precision medicines to patients, deliver them commercially, and make a significant impact on cancer and other conditions and diseases,” said Todd Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Tyra.

Tyra is developing treatments to fight acquired resistance in oncology, which makes targeted cancer treatments stop working. Tyra Biosciences reached a major milestone in September 2021 when it raised $199 million and went public. 

Tyra now trades shares on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol TYRA.

“It was exciting,” Harris said. “We took the whole company out to New York to ring the bell. We were in the fortunate position where the stars aligned and scientific progress was lockstep with our financing strategy.” Tyra was co-founded by Harris and Daniel Bensen, the Chief Operating Officer. The idea for a precision medicine oncology company started with meetings over coffee at Café Topes in Carlsbad and morphed into a seed-funded venture, with the duo chipping in their own capital, along with funds from their friends and families. 

Since then, Tyra has raised hundreds of millions to advance its novel pipeline of therapies targeting acquired resistance in oncology. The company has also grown to more than 20 employees, with plans to continue its rapid growth over the next 18 months.

Tyra is working to develop cancer drugs that target tumors resistant to other therapies.

It was an easy decision to make Carlsbad the home base for their company. Harris and Bensen are longtime friends who live next door to each other in the coastal city. “Carlsbad is a great place to live, regardless of what company or industry you’re in,” Harris said. “From a lifestyle perspective, this is an exceptional place in the world.”

Carlsbad is not only a great place to live, but a great place to do business, they said. “There is a ton of biotech talent here in Carlsbad that’s been drawn here over many years due to San Diego’s strength as a biotech hub,” Harris said. 

Bensen echoed Harris’ comments, saying “The people and talent are here, why don’t we co-locate and save everyone the stress of the commute?” 

The city has supported the company’s growth. Initially, Tyra rented office space in Carlsbad Village and subleased lab space near the McClellan-Palomar Airport. The lab was first located in the city-funded life science incubator, Bio, Tech and Beyond. The company later worked with city staff to get the necessary permits to expand its space so that the biotech lab and office spaces could be under one campus on State Street in downtown Carlsbad.

“We’re not the first biotech to set up shop in Carlsbad — and certainly not the last,” Harris said. “It’s a business-friendly environment.”

Biotechnology is a growing industry in Carlsbad. 

In fact, more than 100 Carlsbad companies are working to change the future of health and save lives, from creating medical devices to developing pharmaceuticals.

“We’re proud of the life-saving work Carlsbad’s companies have accomplished, particularly during the pandemic,” said Matt Sanford, Economic Development Manager for the City of Carlsbad. “We know this is just the tip of the iceberg. More great work is expected out of our life science companies, and city staff will be there to support every step of the way.”